Juvenile Training Immersion Program: Building Blocks of Juvenile Defense Advocacy

Photograph: CLE ClassroomAttorneys who represent indigent youth in delinquency court earned CLE credits during a one-day Juvenile Training Immersion Program, or JTIP, on December 12, 2014. General topic areas included adolescent development, the role of counsel, and detention advocacy.

JTIP is a highly specialized, comprehensive, trial advocacy training program for juvenile defense attorneys that involves interactive training exercises to apply the skills and strategies being taught. This program was made possible by the Central Juvenile Defender Center and the National Juvenile Defender Center and was hosted by Washburn Law’s Children and Family Law Center.

JTIP was developed by the National Juvenile Defender Center and the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network, alongside experts from across the country. JTIP aims to elevate the practice of juvenile law and is structured to help defenders meet their obligations at every stage of the delinquency system. JTIP reflects a core commitment to the unique role and critical importance of specialized defense counsel in juvenile courts across America, consistent with a young person’s fundamental right to counsel. Intended to serve as the “gold standard” in training, JTIP is the only training curriculum focused on providing a substantive overview of juvenile and criminal law integrated with developing strong trial advocacy skills for juvenile defenders.

Participants gained an understanding of key concepts in adolescent development and how these concepts affect an adolescent’s decision making in legal contexts as well as their involvement in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems. They learned how adolescent development impacts a youth’s competence, mens rea and culpability. Additionally, the session explored how adolescent development affects the youth’s ability to function within the attorney-client relationship and the youth’s ability to make knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waivers of constitutional rights. Participants also learned strategies for informing the court about the impact of adolescent development on a child client’s behavior.                    

The “Role of Counsel” session covered the juvenile defender’s ethical obligations with respect to the child client as dictated by case law, the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct, the ABA model Rules, and the National Juvenile Defense Standards.

Participants also gained an understanding of the impact of detention on a youth. Due to the negative psychological impact of detention on youth, skills and strategies were provided so that the public defenders can effectively advocate for their clients at the detention hearings and challenge probable cause. Participants learned how to identify alternatives to detention, as well as how to identify and address issues that arise after the detention hearing.

Interactive forensic exercises presented during Part II of the CLE helped to reinforce the material being taught. One specific activity was a spin-off of the television game show “Family Feud.”

Presenters at this CLE came from across the United States. They included Mary Fox, district defender for the St. Louis City Trial Office for the Missouri State Public Defender; Dennis Marks, juvenile deputy public defender in Sarpy County, Neb.; Mae C. Quinn, a nationally recognized scholar in the areas of criminal and juvenile justice, professional ethics, poverty law, and women’s legal history; Sue Rinne, district defender in the St. Joseph Trial Office of the Missouri State Public Defender System; and Amy Halbrook, assistant professor at Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law and director of the Chase Children’s Law Clinic in Covington, Kentucky.